2 of 5 stars.
The thin line between life and death is often explored in speculative fiction since fantasy can bridge the barrier to show both sides of the border. The title of this tale promises nothing less. It also opens with the date 09 September 2001–two days before 9-11 and the infamous terrorists acts that took down four planes and The Twin Towers. One cannot use these dates lightly, especially in a tale that promises to explore the line between life and death.
Over the course of 4 days in September 2001, 8th-11th, the title character dies many times. When she’s not dead, she’s conversing with the voices in her head promising to heal her. At times the voices claim to be alien with a ship and everything, at others they claim to be bacterial. This quizzical contradiction is never resolved, unless one accepts that alien bacteria came by spaceship.
The crux is why she’s dying. On the 9th, it’s from grievous wounds. On the 8th, it’s from a rape and assault that led to the grievous wounds that would kill her the next day again. The encouraging alien bacteria bring her back. After that it becomes less clear why she dies yet again.
The tale never explains why it puts 9-11 in the back ground without affecting the plot of the short story. It’s still too early to use 9-11 as window dressing and not address it. The heart of the story lies in Jessica’s dealing with the horrific circumstances she finds herself in.
This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s historical fantasy Water of Versailles.
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